The Association of Learning Providers is calling for more focus on skills training in Government efforts to curb the sharp surge in unemployment.

Speaking at the Association's autumn conference, Graham Hoyle OBE, ALP's chief executive, stressed the importance of community work-based programmes in its response to 'No-one Written Off', the welfare reform green paper from the Department for Work and Pensions.

Mr Hoyle said: "The Government’s employment initiatives in response to the economic downturn will be more effective if they involve some form of joint commissioning between the jobs and skills agencies to ensure that a tailored package of support is available that will result in more people finding sustainable work."

The financial downturn has seen many people lose their jobs as companies collapse or tighten their budgets. The Government announced its intention earlier this month to provide a further £100m over the next three years to help retrain those facing redundancy. However, the representative body for vocational learning providers highlighted that previous work experience models lacked proper opportunities for upskilling and employment.

Rather than insisting that all training should lead to an accredited qualification, ALP believes people can sometimes benefit more from 'skills tasters' to show what would be involved and what could result from a full course of training.

ALP, which boasts more than 60 FE colleges as members, also took the opportunity to express its support for Employment Support Allowance claimants participating in a skills health check, another part of the welfare reforms. Under the scheme, all jobseeker allowance and new incapacity benefits claimants will face mandatory skills screens when they begin claiming. ALP believes the check should take place at an early stage in the claim.

The two day conference, held at the International Centre in Telford, will wrap up tomorrow. The FE News team will continue its exclusive coverage of the event, which sees Lifelong Learning UK's chief executive David Hunter, and Toni Fazaeli, chief executive of the Institute of Learning, among an impressive line-up of speakers.

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